edie at 20: Is sustainability finally coming home?

It's official - edie is now 20 years old. Our 20th anniversary as a sustainable business media brand offers a chance to celebrate and reflect upon the tremendous achievements of the green economy - but it is also a time for us to realise the immense opportunity that now lies ahead.

edie at 20: Is sustainability finally coming home?

July 1998. Blair was Prime Minister. The first Apple Mac had just been introduced. Titanic had won 11 Oscars. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were still a thing. Furby was our pet. And David Beckham had just seen red for kicking Argentina’s Diego Simeone in the France ’98 World Cup.

It was also at this time in 1998 that a tea lady working in a publishing house in Croydon provided the final piece of inspiration for a project which has ultimately led to me writing this very blog.

The woman’s name was Edie. Edie spent her days – many years, in fact – serving teas and coffees to journalists at Faversham House. And these journalists one day needed a name for a new website which would focus on delivering environmental and sustainability news.

And so, in 1998 – before the launch of Google (now that’s a claim) – edie.net was established, with our brand name paying tribute to that loyal and hard-working tea lady. So, for those of you who had always wondered where our name originates from and thought perhaps it was a clever acronym or a deep and meaningful word – well, now you know.

Whilst this trip down memory lane makes us all feel that bit older, it also serves to highlight just how much things have changed in our lives, often for the better – and often unexpectedly. Take England, for example: Beckham’s petulant kick is but a distant memory as we march on towards the 2018 World Cup Final.

Consider also just how far corporate sustainability and energy management has come in this same space of time. When edie was founded, coal power was still the most prominent form of electricity generation in the UK – with just 2% of our power coming from renewables. Corporate sustainability reporting was practically non-existent, and for a company to have its own dedicated ‘head of sustainability’ was exceptional. There were no electric or hybrid cars on our roads in 1998. There was no grid electricity being generated by solar. No framework or mechanism existed to encourage government’s or businesses to step up action on sustainable development.

The transformations we’ve seen across these broad areas of energy and sustainability may seem imperceptable when looked at over a 20-year period. But when looked at per individual policy, company, technology or initiative, the change really has been quite remarkable.

With these changes in mind, to mark our 20-year anniversary, edie will this month be running a special series of articles charting two decades of sustainable business progress. We will explore the sustainability successes, the policy setbacks, the technological breakthroughs and the CSR failures that have all led to the current state of sustainability in the UK. Stay tuned for additional 20-year infographics, quizzes, podcasts and blog posts from some of the industry’s most influential figures – including Lord Deben and John Elkington – to analyse our progress to date.

And that’s not all. Given that it has really been the past couple of years in which corporate sustainability has seemingly shifted into another gear (the current war on plastics is a case in point), our 20-year series will also look ahead, to investigate what the future holds for corporate sustainability – because it is what happens next that is so critical for edie and our community.

Of course, the future of sustainable business is not about what happens in 20 years’ time, it is about what we can do NOW. Consider this: we are much closer in time now to the Fifth Carbon Budget target of reducing emissions by 57% by 2030 than we are to that era of Blair, Furbies and Beckham red cards. In his role as UN Messenger of Peace for climate change, Leonardo DiCaprio would tell you now that we are much closer in time to the 2030 deadline of achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals than we are to him letting go of that makeshift raft to save Rose back in ’98.

The Mission we all find ourselves on is titanic in itself and should not be underestimated – especially considering the challenges we now face through ever-increasing environmental threats and megatrends, Brexit and the Trump administration. But, if the growing wave of bold new projects and intiatives to drive green business tells us anything, it's that is Mission Possible. And so, edie’s 20-year series will be closely followed by a brand-new series of ‘Mission Possible’-themed reports, investigating how a sustainable future can be achieved across each of the UK’s largest industries.

They say your 20s are the defining decade of your life. And for edie and the wider green economy, that will certainly prove to be the case. But, considering the exciting environmental progress we have seen among businesses and the Government within 2018 alone, one can’t help but feel that our best years are still yet to come.

Luke Nicholls

Topics: CSR & ethics
Tags: administration | apple | Brexit | carbon budget | coal | edie at 20 | Google | green economy | hybrid | Megatrends | Mission Possible | Plastics | renewables | solar | Sustainability reporting | sustainable business | Sustainable Development Goals | technology | war
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